Thanks to the #MeToo movement, millions of women have been able to come forward and tell their stories about sexual harassment in the work place and in places of power and influence. We have been enlightened and horrified by the story of misuse of power and influence and disheartened by the stories of physical violence women who we thought already had some power of their own have had to endure thanks to a system that silences them if they choose to speak and punishes them if they refuse to engage in sexual favours with the men in positions of influence. We have even seen some long overdue change, starting with Harvey Weinstein and spreading out to men like Aziz Ansari (who the vast majority of people involved in the conversation seem acutely polarized about). But yeah, the conversation are happening internationally, but we need them to start happening at home. Especially among African women in positions of power in Nigeria, South Africa and even Uganda.
Last week, news surfaced that Uganda’s deputy ambassador to the United States Dickson Ogwang had to be recalled back to his home country. He was recalled back to Kampala after he invoked his diplomatic immunity, traditionally only used when envoys for countries are discovered to have committed a crime or become indicted in acts of espionage as a way to avoid arrest and prosecution. If this was why Ogwang was forced to take this desperate measure and return to Uganda, it would have been understandable; instead he did it because he was going to be arrested for domestic assault and battery.
Dickson Ogwang was hosting guests with his wife in his US home, when his wife, raised her displeasure at Ogwang also inviting a woman who he was publicly carrying on an extra-marital affair with to their dinner. Ogwang delayed till some of the more prominent guests had left before he attacked his wife, beating her severely in front of mistress and remaining guests for daring to ‘undermine’ his authority in his home. He broke her nose and forced guests to call the police. The police are recorded to have raided his house and found evidence that indeed he routinely beat his wife. And as such he was given the option of facing arrest or being deported. He chose the latter.
Being the wife of a deputy ambassador with significant influence of her own didn’t protect Mrs. Ogwang from assault. In fact, being at that level of influence allowed Mr. Ogwang to assault her and hide the evidence of his violence. It took third parties to finally bring her abuse to light.
The #MeToo movement isn’t only for Hollywood actresses, it is also for wives of African diplomats who still face violence even though they are at the seat of global power, it is for Nigerian actresses who cannot get roles because they are married with children, for starlets who face harassment at every turn. This is as much our problem and we need to start acting.